5 die in Cebu bunkhouse collapse

CEBU CITY (Updated) -- FIVE construction workers died while 55 others were wounded when a 4-level bunkhouse of a construction company collapsed in Barangay Lahug, Cebu City Tuesday dawn.

Nagiel Bañacia, through the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC), identified the casualties as Iveen Villarin, 23, of Langtad, City of Naga; Francisco Diapera, 45, from Pag-asa, Lutopan; Carlos Caliwa, 60, of Negros Oriental; Crisenciano Silomen, 57, of Kauswagan, Trinidad, Bohol; and Jason Bacalso, 22, from Langtad, City of Naga.

“There were 153 construction workers who were sleeping in the bunkhouse when it collapsed,” said Bañacia, who heads the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (CCDRRMO).

The bunkhouse was constructed and used by JE Abraham C. Lee Construction and Development Inc. It was made of steel bars and aluminum sheets.

At 2:57 a.m. Tuesday, the workers woke up to the sound of the steel bars creaking as the bunkhouse tilted to the left, before it collapsed.

At least 93 workers managed to crawl to safety. Four suffered serious injuries, seven sustained various slight injuries, and 44 had minor injuries, based on records of the CCDRRMO.

Teams from CCDRRMO, Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation, Bureau of Fire Protection 7, Mabolo Police Station, Homicide Section and Beat Patrol of the Cebu City Police Office rushed to the scene.

“We had difficulty in the search because of the steel bars but it was also a good thing because those who were trapped still had the chance to breathe. If it were cement, that would’ve been harder,” Bañacia said.

The search and rescue operation lasted for five hours, he said.

JE Abraham C. Lee Construction and Development Inc.-ALCI, said they take full responsibility for what happened.

“We are very saddened by this unfortunate incident. Our priority has been to attend to the injured, especially to their medical needs. We have provided assistance to their families and the other workers not hurt, as well as special care and arrangements for the fatalities and their families,” it said.

“We will cooperate with the authorities in their own investigation. While safety has always been the primary focus in our operations, we have called for a review of our safety policy and practices in all our project sites,” it added.

The project engineer of the company, Engineer Butch Abaya, said that the bunkhouse was designed to accommodate 200 persons. It was constructed in September last year and was where construction workers slept.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is monitoring to ensure that the contractor pays for the hospitalization bills of the accident victims.

As of Tuesday night, DOLE 7 Director Cyril Ticao was still waiting for the full report from labor law compliance officers investigating the accident.

DOLE 7 Assistant Director Lilia Estillore said that officials from DOLE and the Industrial Tripartite Council for Construction will meet this week to take up the incident.

(SuperBalita Cebu, SunStar Philippines, with EOB)

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